Streamline the bill-writing process to save time and reduce mistakes.
During the May 10, 2019 hearing, the Committee heard from several experts directly tied to the Bulk Data Task Force, including Robert Reeves, Deputy Clerk for the U. S. House of Representatives and head of the Bulk Data Task Force; Dr. Joshua Tauberer, founder of GovTrack.us; and Daniel Schuman, co-founder of the Congressional Data Coalition. Speaking on recent transparency endeavors, Mr. Schuman remarked:
The most important of these efforts over the last decade have been the Bulk Data Task Force, which Deputy Clerk Bob Reeves facilitates. It fosters communications and collaboration with the public and across internal congressional silos. It has been a tremendous success.
Daniel Schuman, May 10, 2019
Despite its success, the Bulk Data Task Force can still improve. Currently, the House uses four different formats to write and view legislation. So, as a bill is moving from office to office, or to a new stage in the procedural process, the document is converted and reconverted between multiple formats. This inefficient process not only expends valuable time and resources, it encourages errors. When data provision is delayed to the American public, or in a hard-to-read format, this hinders transparency.
The Committee recommends that one standard format for drafting, viewing, and publishing legislation be adopted. The U. S. Legislative Markup (USLM)—one of the four formats currently used—is the recommended standard, in machine-readable, XML format. This format was recommended with the support of the House Bulk Data Task Force, Government Printing Office, and legislative data partners. USLM is an international technical standard for representing executive, legislative and judiciary documents in a structured manner. This “second generation” XML format will allow the House, Senate, and the Executive branch to seamlessly share data. In his testimony before the Committee on May 10, Dr. Tauberer highlighted the benefits of selecting the USLM as the standard format:
“The Bulk Data Task Force started out with the goal of making legislative documents that were already available individually available in bulk data format. Along the way, we developed the new standardized machine-readable format, United States Legislative Markup, USLM, evolved a technical relationship and opened communication lines among legislative branch entities and civil society groups.”
Dr. Joshua Tauberer, May 10, 2019
Establishing one, standardized format for legislation is the first step to easing transactions between offices. An easy-to-follow legislative process benefits the public not only from a transparency perspective, but it increases congressional responsiveness and productivity as well. A unified format will make it easier for Members to work together to create legislation for the American people.